Interview - Simon & Jessica

We are so taken with the work, style and perhaps even above all, the life ethic of Simon Howell & Jessica Barensfeld. Somehow, their deep love of the ocean and lighthearted, yet nurturing, enjoyment of nature, and their true, engaging kindness and friendliness permeates everything they do. From considerately warming our noggins with their Lynn & Lawrence woolly hats to adorning us with colour and sparkle, their wares are hand-made and imbued with the spirit of honest craftsmanship that we are all about.

Interview with Simon Howell & Jessica Barensfeld
Jeweller, Photographer/Model and Owners of Lynn & Lawrence

Would you share with us a favourite childhood story or memory?
J - Sitting on top of the garage with my mom, eating watermelon and spitting the seeds out as far as we could. Flying kites with my dad. Swimming all summer long and living in my bathing suit. Designing Halloween costumes with my dad that were really elaborate and out-there. Exploring. All the make-believe.

Can you locate the origins of your creativity in any of your childhood interests?
We are both only children so we tended to spend a great deal of time solo, swimming around in our own heads and relying on internal stimulation. We also both have very creative folks and grew up around a hands-on, DIY approach to things. We both pursued the arts as our path from an early age and both went to art school for university.

Apart from your art and work, what sensorial activities give you pleasure?
J - I love caring for our plants and Simon does light roof gardening in the warmer months. It is very satisfying to care for living, growing things and to watch their beauty evolve.

You obviously deeply treasure the ocean. Would you tell us a bit about that? Surfing is a big connection – what are your favourite long and/or short boards to ride?
S - When I moved to New York from London it didn’t take me long to finally pursue my dream to surf and be closer to the sea. Once you buy into it, you can’t help but become a steward to the sea. You want to protect it and educate others about it. It was very easy for Jessie to get involved too; she's an amazing swimmer and when we met she was just chomping at the bit to learn how to surf.

We love our long boards and the 9’6 Fineline on a clean knee or thigh-high day is the best. That’s pretty rare in NY though, so my 7’8 egg gets a lot of use. I’m also just getting into my latest board, a little 5’6 Fish by Alex Knost. It’s pretty sweet.

Is there somewhere you having been dreaming about visiting?
J - We are working with knitting co-ops down in Peru but have not yet had a chance to get down there. So, that is our next dream trip on the business end and we both know we will be inspired and overwhelmed beyond belief by that trip–can’t wait!

If you could time travel what era or moment in history would you visit, and why?
S - I think my grandparents' era was an amazing time. They were born at the beginning of a new century and witnessed many fantastic changes while still being very close to hands-on living. It was truly a new age, and it must have been incredible to witness the 'century of change' that they did in their lifetimes. Unfortunately I romanticise it a lot and tend to only dwell on the best bits, as it had plenty of problems. I really think that we live in no better time than the present, as we can take the best from the past with out its prejudices–it’s a fortunate time to be in. I’m definitely not a pessimist, I just think the world and its inhabitants are just getting better and better.

Your businesses share similar themes: a love of nature, maritime tropes, the freedom of the hand- made. Did you come to work together through realizing mutual appreciations? To what extent do your own interests influence each other's work?
S - In my opinion it’s very simple. Do what you love, do it with people you love, and the rest will take of itself. I’m so interested in what Jessie likes and visa versa. I don’t think we’d be together otherwise.

Jessica, what led you to silversmithing?
J - Well, it wasn’t what I thought I’d end up in at all when I entered school, but I did end up transferring from interior architecture into the jewelry department at Rhode Island School of Design. I fell in love with the craft and the idea of it as small, wearable sculpture.

Simon, what is it about photography that you enjoy most?
S - Looking! I used to work with a very well-known photographer back in London and I remember him telling me, “The camera gets in the way. If only I could take pictures with my eyes, then you would truly see my creation.” I agree.

What was it like being in front of Annie Leibovitz's lens?
J - Surreal. She is a true icon, legend and inspiration, and I still can’t believe that happened and that Simon and I were able to share it.

We love your Woolly Hats! Is there a special story behind your decision to turn them into a business?
S - You can thank Wes Anderson for creating Steve Zissou and basing him on Jacques Cousteau. All I wanted was a simple red beanie. Jessie knit me one and our friends fell in love it and wanted one each too. Before we knew it we were knitting hats for everybody so we thought why not turn it into a little business and the rest is history. We can’t wait to see where it will take us.

Do your sidekick felines have their own to wear?
J - We couldn’t resist–it’s a mandatory accessory in this household. Next up is Lynn & Lawrence Baby!

Being designers of your own schedule, are there any key things that you do every day to stay grounded?

J - We try to stick to the schedule we create and when we enter our studio switch into work mode. This dictates how we treat and approach each other during those hours–more as business partners rather than husband and wife. It's not always perfect but we try our best. This is so important especially since our studio is in our home.

S - Jessie is right. We have to treat the day like a regular 9 to 5 job. It's too easy to get distracted by a nice sunny day. Although, in the summer we will treat ourselves if the waves are nice.

What advice would you give people keen to set up a small business?
J - Keep hold of a shred of delusion. It is such a difficult thing to do and be successful at. The financial aspect is, of course, one of the hardest (which we still struggle with) but as long as you keep telling yourself and your partner (which it really helps to have on many levels) that you can and should carry on and that things will be okay, they really tend to be and there will be growth. Also, the simple, age-old mantra that the amount or calibre of effort you put towards something you will receive something from the universe in return, I find is a pretty solid truth.

Whose work or talent do you admire whom you wish you could meet?
S - We are massive Patagonia fans, more for what they represent than just their clothes. Their business model is amazing. It’s so cool that a company that big gives so much, and when I say give, we don’t just mean financially, as there are plenty over companies that do that. Patagonia makes you think about where your money is going. They’re not scared to tell you not to by their new product but instead, send in your old one and we’ll repair it for you for free. It just doesn’t get any better than that. A one-on-one with Yvon Chouinard would be amazing.

You are expecting a mini you! What are you most looking forward to as new parents? We wish you all the very best.
J - Yes!! To get into the water with our child... bath, pool, lake or ocean, I can’t wait! Also, to experience 'firsts' all over again through their perceptions and perspectives–how exciting and inspiring.

Interview by Camille Moir-Smith
Photography by Simon and Jessica

May 22, 2015
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